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Stoke's long unbeaten home run was brought to a shuddering halt as Chelsea chalked up a 4-0 victory - with a helping hand from Jonathan Walters.
The Potters had not lost at the Britannia Stadium in the Barclays Premier League since February and have proved formidable opponents for the league's big guns but this was their biggest home loss since returning to the top flight in 2008.
It began to go wrong in injury time at the end of the first half when Walters headed into his own net and remarkably the striker repeated the trick in the 62nd minute. Three minutes later Frank Lampard netted a penalty after Juan Mata was brought down and Eden Hazard rounded off the scoring with a long-range screamer 17 minutes from time. Walters was given the chance to at least score one goal at the right end when Stoke were awarded a 90th-minute penalty but, in keeping with the rest of the striker's day, he could only find the top of the bar.
Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez made the decision to start Demba Ba for his first Barclays Premier League appearance for the club, with Fernando Torres dropping to the bench. Defender Gary Cahill was absent to be at the birth of his son so David Luiz dropped back into defence alongside Branislav Ivanovic. Lampard started while captain John Terry was on the bench for the first time since sustaining knee ligament damage two months ago.
Chelsea began positively and only a well-timed tackle from Ryan Shawcross prevented Ramires getting a shot away. The Stoke captain showed just why the Potters were so keen to tie him to a long-term deal with some assured play to steady the ship and soon it was the home side who were threatening.
In the eighth minute a shot from Andy Wilkinson was blocked by Ramires and the ball fell to Kenwyne Jones on the right of the area. His shot beat Petr Cech but rolled just wide. Chelsea were rattled and Cech was grateful to hang on to a header from Steven Nzonzi, who could not get enough power into his effort.
The visitors were struggling to get out of their half but a break in the 25th minute provided them with a great chance as Ba found Lampard running into the area only for Asmir Begovic to stick out a leg and deny him. The Bosnian goalkeeper was again the saviour for Stoke six minutes later as Ba outpaced Robert Huth but could not beat the keeper with the angle tightening, while Wilkinson's crunching tackle stopped Ramires from reaching the loose ball.
Stoke by now were reduced to half-chances - a shot on the turn from Jones that was blocked by Luiz and a volley from Glenn Whelan that was straight at Cech.
It looked like the teams would go into half-time all square but, with injury time almost up, Cesar Azpilicueta swung in a cross from the right. Mata was poised to convert but he was beaten to the ball by a diving Walters, who powered the ball past his own keeper.
The striker attempted to make amends after the restart but, although he beat the Chelsea defence, the angle was too narrow to really trouble Cech.
It was an open game and, after Begovic had produced another decent stop to push Ashley Cole's low drive round the post, Nzonzi tested Cech with a fine strike from 25 yards that the Chelsea keeper pushed over the bar.
The killer goal arrived in the 62nd minute and incredibly it was another own goal from Walters. This time Mata sent in a corner and the Stoke striker got his head to the ball just ahead of Lampard.
Things got worse for Stoke three minutes later when they conceded a penalty. Mata broke through and was brought down by Huth. Lampard smashed the penalty down the middle and he should have added a fourth moments later but shot straight at Begovic from point-blank range.
The visitors completed the rout in the 73rd minute as Hazard let fly from 25 yards and the ball rocketed into the top corner.
Two minutes before Torres had replaced Ba while Terry was given a little over 10 minutes. There was still time for the defender to give away a penalty for a foul on Walters but there was no redemption for the striker.
Stoke City manager Tony Pulis: "We're disappointed. The second goal killed us. The goals we conceded were poor, but it was a wonder goal from [Eden] Hazard. I don't think that was a 4-0 today. It just didn't go for us. We didn't deserve to be losing at half-time and until the second goal I felt we were the better team, although Chelsea have some fantastic players."
Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez: "It was a difficult game, especially in the first half. We knew it would be, Tony Pulis is doing a great job and we knew it would be physical and intense, but we were ready for that. The goal changed the game because they had to go forward and left space, which meant little by little we could control the game. My players showed great character and quality.
"You have to realise the team is doing well. The players are happy and training well. They try to perform, all the staff are doing a great job and the atmosphere inside is really good. The Premier League is a difficult competition with a lot of good teams. We are scoring more goals and conceding half the goals, so we have more balance and that's the way to sustain the performance of the team at this level."
|16 Mar 2013||v West Brom (H)|
|19 May 2013||v Southampton (A)|
|14 Apr 2013||v Man Utd (H)|
|19 Jan 2013||v Swansea (A)|
|29 Jan 2013||v Wigan (H)|
|02 Feb 2013||v Arsenal (A)|